Reader: Honestly, Bakersfield Californian? What is the purpose of this article ("LA coroner: Burrous died of meth toxicity," Feb. 23) other than the posthumous shredding of his character? Is this really newsworthy? Seems far more sleazy tabloid. Wonder how Chris’ family feels when they read this. Would you want every poor judgment private thing you’ve ever done published?

— Anne Kelly 

Reader: As a public person, the article is completely fair game. He was on air here and worked with his wife here. He is well-known here. Once you become a public person you are public, warts and all! Burrous was a broadcaster in the No. 2 market in the country. Had he just had a heart attack, this would be a minor story.

— Darren C. Bly

Reader: A lot of people were curious what this seemingly model family man was doing in a seedy motel with another man. Reporting the facts isn't personal, it's just facts. This was a pretty big story; it was going to be widely available in the media. I met Mr. Burrous on a live remote back when he was at KGET. Nice man, with a nice family. This whole story is very puzzling.

— Carl Driver 

Price: The three of you generally describe the course of the newsroom debate over this story among editors. You all speak truth.

The story is among the most salacious we've published. To recap, Chris Burrous, a longtime anchor at KTLA in Los Angeles, and a former anchor at KGET in Bakersfield, died Dec. 27 of methamphetamine toxicity while engaging in sexual activity, according to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office. The autopsy report, released Feb. 22, explicitly described the minutes and seconds leading to his death. That's as far as I'm going to go here.

The story omitted some of the most, shall we say, unusual details of that afternoon at the Glendale Days Inn, but still provided more information than some readers felt was appropriate. The subject of most reader complaints, however, was the online publication of the autopsy report. 

The autopsy report was published only on the web, not in print. A prominent banner across the top of it read: "Note: The report contains graphic details not suitable for some audiences." In the title of the actual report, we inserted "Contains explicit detail." The most salacious information began seven pages into the 22-page document, which included separate toxicology and coroner's investigative reports. You had to have been willing to be shocked to have proceeded past those warnings and click forward that deep into the document.

Not everyone here at The Californian agrees with me, although most do: It was a step too far. A few steps, probably.

We pulled the report off the web after about three hours.

I don't recall us ever having second-guessed ourselves like that, but it was the right thing to do. 

Public figures do leave themselves open to more prying than ordinary people. They know, or should know, that that's just the way it is. But, unless their actions harmed others, they also deserve a measure of privacy. One could argue that Burrous' actions harmed his family, though, and that's where I'm conflicted.

What do you think?


Reader: How disingenuous of Robert Price to rationalize the way The Californian reports about crime and victims of crime ("Sound Off: Shocked at our coverage of the homicide, or just the homicide itself?," Feb 23). It has not changed since the influx of Hispanic and others of color into Bakersfield in large numbers. It used to be the newspaper only reported the larger crimes and avoided the usual run-of-the-mill crimes. With the diminishing numbers of the dominant demographic, all that changed. 

Minor crimes in the white, affluent demographic are not considered news. On the other hand, in the not-so-well-thought-of areas of the city every fender bender or disagreement with a neighbor is headline news. Then the editors pull out their established, boilerplate profile of the nasty evil Hispanic to instill fear in this already traumatized conservative Christian dump.

— Panfilo Fuentes

Price: Pete, your letter appeared in my inbox a short time after we posted Steven Mayer's story about a fatal stabbing, so I assume that's what you're referring to ("'Mikey Smash,' killed in downtown knifing, had apparent Hells Angels affiliation," Feb. 22). The victim's name was Michael Adam Morales, so I assume you're calling attention to his Latino surname.

In what world is a fatal stabbing on a downtown street populated with Saturday night revelers a "usual run-of-the-mill crime"? Police have still not identified a suspect; should we wait to find out what kind of last name he has before we report anything further?

I don't like to throw around the "R" word, so I won't, but suggesting that we should have declined to report on a very public homicide so as not to offend a particular ethnicity (is that what you're actually saying?) strikes me as pretty close to that overused classification.

Please fire an email over to me if you run across any fender benders involving Hispanics that we've missed.

The Californian’s Robert Price answers your questions and takes your complaints about our news coverage in this weekly feedback forum. Questions may be edited for space and clarity. To offer your input by phone, call 661-395-7649 and leave your comments in a voicemail message or email us at soundoff@bakersfield.com. Include your name and phone number; they won’t be published.

(19) comments

She Dee

I don't think the truth is going too far. It was refreshing to read the truth about the other side of life that I was once a part of & got to live through it! At least he died happy.

Cookcook

I think THISarticle may be taking it further ,but for what purpose? Its bad enough you told it once ! Let it bee ! NOW!

JeanShaw

I had just heard about Chris Burrows from a friend who lives in the South Bay. She raved about how great his show was and how she loved him. The next thing I know there is an article in The Bakersfield Californian detailing his death complete with all the sordid details. Yes. The article went way too far. Remember, he had a wife and daughter.

George Gant

A Public Figure is a "Role Model." If he has misrepresented himself, than that's his fault. The public has a right to know who he really is, not just his artificial persona!

Nevermind

Reporting facts is rarely wrong. You want news that doesn't report facts, tune into Fox News.

trevorsisk

Oh and my favorite part of the above article: it's all about, hey, guys, um, sorry but did we did we maybe go too far... then, TO RECAP: death, meth, sex........ LOL. You guys are a piece of work. Do you all have souls or does this industry turn you all into a bunch of Gollums; after nothing but that "precious" story? If you had to think more than 10 seconds as to whether or not to post a well known COLLEGUE'S salacious autopsy on the internet, I'm confident it's the latter.

trevorsisk

Listen, coming off all sappy and sorry after the fact doesn't count. You all made a lot of money off that story and that autopsy report has been re-posted over and over and can still be seen. So stop with the "we did the right thing" song and dance when you know as well as anyone when something is posted on the web, it's there forever in some form. We have long stopped looking to the press to be the moral arbiter. You'd do it again in a minute if it meant profit. The real issue here is why in the world are we so secretive about medical records but are fine about blasting each other's autopsy report for the world to see? THAT is what the issue is. If it's there you guys will run with it - we know that already. We need to make autopsies private information, just like we do for medical records! It serves NO purpose to the public. Cause of death? sure, but a full graphic autopsy?? What are we thinking? May as well just go ahead and make public the autopsy photos too, i'm sure the Press would LOVE that.

Eliz59

To me, not, full disclosure here has the potential for more good than harm - dying in such a way so that others truly might learn from it, so that others might live. Apparent drug abuse has been mentioned here several times. Addiction does lead a person toward secretive, extreme and increasingly reckless behavior. The tragic news raised my concern for those with addictive work-aholic personalities in Burrous’ profession in an industry that requires one to be “on”, on-call 24/7; prime candidates, it seems to me, for sleep disorders. Until now I did not know that treatment for Narcolepsy or ADHD disorder, which I suspect - but neither of which do I know he had, is the stimulant, Amphetamine. Mr. Burrous’ manner of death casts no shadow upon his loved ones. The very best of him remains with them. By all means shelter children, his child, from the details of his passing; and, though his preferences/interests/behavior is truly none of anyone else’s business, I hope he confided them fully in his loving wife, everything. Behavior with risks attached in an honest, intimate, loving relationship, deserves nothing less.

HeresJohnny

I feel bad for his daughter, but she will find out how he died regardless. On the other hand Chris looked loaded most of the time on the weekend show and his drug references in the name of comedy were a pretty good indicator the guy was using. Whats worse than this publication reporting on his death or publishing an autopsy report is the fact the people closest to him, primarily his co-workers were not able to recognize a problem or prevent this dude from self destructing practically right in front of a live television audience. They all had no idea what was going on when they make it their business to know everybody elses business all the time? Yeah okay...how many more of these folks are out there manipulating the public consciousness day after day while they smoke crack in a rubber mask chained up with an anonymous partner in a cheap motel night after night. Then people wonder why nobody can trust the media.

sunny one

I just thought that the information revealed in the article was harmful to his minor child. Please don't post salacious articles.

cljrmccoy

Did you go too far? ABSOLUTELY at the beginning. In your massive rush to publish the story, you sent out a news alert that directed me to the website. Once on the website, I got the same "go to the website for more" message. I clicked it *again* and the only thing I got was a text link directly to the autopsy. No article. No warning. Just the autopsy with ALL the details. Clearly this was an error because later when I was telling someone about my shock of what I read and the horrible way you shared it with me, I went back to my email to click the link again the article was now there. So, even discounting the graphic details in the article itself, your rush to get the story out caused me to read ALL the details...something I wish I never would have done :(

Stating the obvious

Nobody cares when the media goes to far every day when they trash Trump- our president. Why should we care if the media actually reported the truth about one of their own?

Nevermind

When your President IS trash, you put him in the can. His orange jumpsuit awaits.

Stephen

Trump says and does what he says and does. Reporting it isn't "tearing down the president." It's called reporting. Happily we don't have the sort of state controlled media that colors the leader in a favorable light the right wing seems to want.

Me? I'll stick with a free press regardless how much it offends right wingers and their delusions about the qualities of their president.

The truth may hurt but it is what it is and calling the press; "fake news" doesn't change the facts. It shows how un American some people can be, a fact not changed by physically hugging the American flag.

Stating the obvious

I always find your comments thoughtful Stephen, but I think you are a little out of touch if you think that we have a "free press" in America. It is exclusively in the control of the liberal media who choose to focus on issues that support their political agenda. This is not a free press.

mikessss

COULD U IMAGINE IF HILLARY WOULD HAVE WON OUR COUNTRY WOULD BE IN A BAD STATE .LIKE IT WAS WITH OBAMA ...PEOPLE ARE COMPLETELY STUPID TO THINK TRUMP HASNT DONE THIS COUNTRY GOOD ..

Your reporting made me throw up in my mask while I was hanging out with Amanda Fist

HeresJohnny

Lol

georgieboy11

Did you go too far with the Chris Burrous story? Maybe. I wasn't surprised at the drug overdose. You only had to watch him on the weekend show on KTLA 5 to see that he was flying high. But what did hurt and shock those of us who loved his funny personality, was the destruction of our image of him. I think I worry most about his daughter and how the details of his death will affect her. Maybe for the rest of her life.
Addicts always say that the things they do only hurt themselves and they can't understand how what they are doing effects others. This incident shows how wrong they are.

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